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I Need a New Race

As I typed the title for this blog post, “I Need a New Race”, I have the tune of Huey Lewis and The News “I Need a New Drug” in my head. Now I can’t get it out…

Since my first marathon run in late April, I’ve gone on less than 20 runs. Most have been in the 3-4 mile range and my average pace has slowly drifted slower. Most importantly, my weight has slowly drifted to my pre-training weight. My clothes still fit, but I’m not happy with where I am currently.

I’m one of those people that dive head-first into any project that I choose to engage. True to form, I went crazy with running, including spending most of my free time with running books, magazines, and podcasts. I enjoyed almost every run, even if I wasn’t the fastest guy on the block. Having a goal of completing the marathon was a fantastic motivator; it was a lot easier getting up early to run or running in the rain.

Unfortunately, the warmer weather and humidity sapped every bit of desire to get out and run. Additionally, I really like food and craft beer. The combination of lack of exercise and increased consumption of empty calories has brought be back to where I was over a year ago. 

So, I need a new race. Something that will fit in my schedule and allow me to be motivated. The Fall season just doesn’t work for me because of KSU home football games and involvement with the Symphony Chorus. So, I need to find something that will work. I’m looking into a virtual race in November. Maybe that will be it.

Whatever I find – putting it out here on the blog will give me a bit of accountability. 

4th of July Block Party

Linda and I are so lucky because we live on one of the best blocks in town. We arrange to have our street closed each 4th of July (this year on Saturday, the 1st) for a block party so we can all have a blast right in the middle of the block, which is right in front of our house.

It was suggested we have a big bouncy-house water slide this year. We had about 10 families share the cost for a 22-foot inflatable water slide. You just can’t ask for more fun for a group of kids – and adults.

Here’s a short video clip of me having fun with some of the neighbors:

A fun night at “K-State at the K”

Linda picked me up from work and we headed straight to Kauffman Stadium for “K-State at the K” night. Everyone with special tickets received a special ball cap with a KSU PowerCat on the side and Royals written in purple across the front. By arriving at 5:15 (for a 7:10 game), we assumed we’d be pretty close to the front of the line for the special entrance (where the ball caps would be given out). We were surprised that there was already a pretty long line. However, it moved at a decent pace once the gates opened at 5:30.

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Upon entering, we were given our ball caps and we searched out dinner as it was also “Buck Night” – hotdogs for only $1. These aren’t gourmet hotdogs, but they’re tasty and filling (and cheap for food in a MLB stadium). The opportunity to have honey mustard with the addition of sauerkraut, onions, and jalapeño peppers made the hotdogs that much better.

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A cold beer goes well with hot dogs – and the beer I love to get when at Kauffman Stadium is a local Boulevard Tropical Pale Ale – refreshing, hoppy, and fruity!

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The National Anthem was performed by a trumpet ensemble from Kansas State University and Willie mixed it up with Sluggerr.

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The game was a good one. Very little offense, but amazing defense. The Royals turned at least 4 double plays in the first 6 innings (I didn’t keep track after that). The Royals finally started adding some offense late in the game, including a home run by Moustakas in the 8th inning. The final score was 4-0, but most cool was that Vargas pitched the entire game. One doesn’t get to witness that much in these days of modern baseball and carefully watched pitch counts.

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The day was “National Doughnut Day” and neither Linda nor I got a chance to get any doughnuts, so we did the next best (and maybe better) thing – we got funnel cakes. So amazingly delicious.

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The night was finished off with fireworks – a fun Friday Night activity after each of the Royals home games. Fireworks are a whole lot more fun when you’ve just one the game.

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Emily’s High School Graduation

So, Emily graduated from high school last week. In fact, we’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to get ready for the big day. I was able to post everything on Facebook and twitter, but somehow totally forgot about creating a blog post about graduation.

The day started out with a special recognition for students with academic honors at the Senior Recognition Ceremony.

All of Linda’s family arrived, but mine were unable to come due to my mother’s health.  The weather in the evening was gorgeous and much more pleasant than the cool weather that occur during Anna’s graduation last year. We gathered for pictures in the backyard.

SONY DSCAfter the graduation, many of the graduates attended and after– graduation party at PowerPlay (a grownup Chucky Cheese). Linda was one of the parents that helped organize this after party and we worked a shift until 3 AM. In fact, I even ran the bumper cars for a while. It was a long evening, but totally worth it.

Finally, this was us as we got home at about 4:00am.

A party was held just 3 days later – with a large number of people stopping by to congratulate Emily on her accomplishment. Unfortunately, it was raining and we were unable to enjoy the backyard and all of the work that Linda has done over the past 6 weeks (and more). However, we were able to keep everyone indoors without any horrible overcrowding . Food was plentiful and drinks flowed.

Here is the video that was on a continuous loop in the living room – a lifetime of Emily (created by Linda).

Emily’s Senior Pacesetters Banquet & Speech

Emily enjoyed her last evening as a member of Pacesetters the other night. The annual end-of-year banquet was held and honored all of the team members, but especially the seniors. Each senior gave a small speech – some of them actually completing the task without crying.

It was good to be there to help acknowledge her great accomplishment of being on the dance team for all four years of high school (JV as a freshman and then varsity the other 3 years).

Congratulations, Emily.

Here’s Emily’s short speech; we were sitting directly under a loud air conditioner vent in the lobby outside the gym. The audio has been cleaned up as much as possible.

Finally, here are some fantastic pictures of the Pacesetters team:

Emily’s Last High School Band Concert

Emily had her last high school band concert the other night. It’s been amazing listening to her grow in her talent of playing flute over the past 8 years. She was among those few recognized as a State Band participant and also received several awards for her work that she does with the different bands.

Despite being a wonderfully talented flutist, she has been stuck playing in the Freshman Band through all 4 years of school. Her dance team, Pacesetters, is scheduled at the same time as the upper level Symphonic Band (in which she would’ve been placed). She made the decision 4 years ago that she’d rather play in the Freshman Band so that she could keep up with her love of dancing.

In the role of upperclassman in a younger band, she has often assisted with sectionals and playing tests. There are times, it seems, that she sometimes functioned as a student teacher, albeit unofficially. This past year, she also played in the Concert Band (the next level up) – being allowed to do so by just coming and sitting in and practically sight-reading. She’s quite a talented young gal.

Enjoy a short piece, played by the Concert Band – John Phillip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis”. You’ll see Emily and her section stand up to play at about the 1:35 mark.

Finally, here are some pictures of Emily among the other award winners and also being presented a rose by fellow senior, Jonas. All of the senior women were acknowledged and presented a rose by one of the guys.

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Bumper Sticker Hatred

I’m not sure what it is about people in our community that find it acceptable to take bumper stickers off someone else’s car. In fact, Linda and both of the girls have had several bumper stickers removed over the past 6 months. 

Granted, the bumper stickers were political. Both of the girls lost stickers that said “#HillYes” back during the presidential elections. These stickers were removed from their respective parking lots at school. Linda has lost a few stickers, the most recent being a sticker that said “Facts Matter”. 

To the person that felt compelled to vandalize our vehicle:

Really? A sticker that says “Facts Matter” is so inflammatory that you feel righteous enough to remove the sticker from property that does not belong to you? The car is always parked in a garage when it is at home, so the only you could sit and peel this sticker off is out in public in a public parking lot – with other people walking around and watching you. How brazen and bold you are to steal something off of someone else’s vehicle. Next time, keep your thoughts to yourself – and more importantly, keep your fingers off of our car. 

I was a bit ashamed when Hillary Clinton used the term last year, but your actions have shown that you, my friend, have proven yourself to be “deplorable”. Frankly, your actions continue to feed a stereotype of the redneck bubba that won’t allow anyone else to express their own opinion. Now that I think about it, you’re probably the one that drove by flipping us the middle finger while we stood in a protest line, supporting the rights of all Americans. Yep, your true colors are showing…

By the way, bumper stickers aren’t too expensive; we’ve learned to buy several at a time. Rip it off, we’ll just put another one on.

My First Marathon

Of course, I didn’t sleep well during the night. I went to bed early, but tossed and turned all night. Were the 5  months of training enough? Did I do everything I could to prepare for running 26.2 miles?

Despite a fitful night of sleep, I got up early (as planned) and had some breakfast with some coffee. I triple-checked to make sure I had everything I would need for running farther than I had ever run before. Linda and I left very early for what should’ve been a 10-minute drive. However, the highway was backed up with 2 lanes of stand-still traffic for more than a mile from the exit – on a Saturday morning at 6:00 AM. We did our best to not worry and keep a smile on.

Fortunately, I noticed on Facebook that a very good friend was announcing for the race and I texted him to let him know that a lot of us were stuck out on the highway. The start time was pushed back from 06:45 AM until 7:10 AM. However, even with that change, I barely made it. When we got as close as we could, I jumped out of the car at 07:08 and ran to the start line.

I made it within seconds of the start of the National Anthem. 

As soon as the National Anthem was sung, we were off. I was at the back of the pack and was nowhere near the pacer that I intended to follow. My goal was to finish in under 5 hours, so I wanted to be with them and stay just ahead. I found the 5:30 pacer and stuck with them and slowly moved my way forward. 

Linda parked the car a couple miles up the road and found me running. It was amazingly awesome to have her standing on the side of the road, cheering me on. I can’t even put into words how much it meant to me to have her there – ringing her cowbell and all!

In fact, Linda leap-frogged the race several times to find me on 4 different occasions – all within the first 8 miles. She had to be in Topeka later in the morning for a job judging a piano competition. Thus, it meant that much more to me that she was sticking around to find me every few miles. 

At one point, I ran past the house of some very good friends – the Khemraj’s – and they were all out there to give me high-fives and cheer me one. Their daughter had even made a sign to cheer me on – it was fantastic.I found Linda for the last time at mile 8 – and a friend of ours was waiting with her for me to show up. Ron is the husband of one of our very good biking friends and he was running the half-marathon. He waited for me to show up and jumped back in to run with me. 

Ron and I ran together until mile 12, stopping quickly for a quick selfie in front of the 10-mile marker. It was fabulous running along with him. Having run a number of marathons, he was able to pass along a lot of advice while we were running. 

As soon as Ron and I parted ways, I was essentially by myself for the rest of the race. There was a huge crowd of runners – until most of them turned at the 12.5-mile mark and the few of us turned the opposite way for the marathon.

The second half was definitely tougher than the first half. I maintained my planned pace until about mile 20 or 21. I started to institute some walking (which I had not been doing in any of my training), as I began to become more and more sore. The left knee was really starting to get sore, but was hanging in there.

My overall goal was to complete the race – but my secondary goal was to finish in under 5 hours. It seem kind of arbitrary, but was still a goal, nonetheless. Knowing that I was walking a number of instances, I kept a close eye on my watch to keep myself within reach of the 5-hour mark.

My Apple Watch kept perfect time, however, by the end of the race it was 1.5 miles ahead. So, I was getting feedback from friends that were following me via my running app, congratulating me for finishing, but I wasn’t even at the 25-mile mark yet.

The final 0.75 miles was uphill and most of it into a 15mph headwind. It was really a horrible way to end such a long run, but I looked up and found Emily there waiting for me at the 26-mile mark. With 0.2 miles left, she joined alongside me and encouraged me to finish strong.

Emily ran along and Anna was waiting there at the finish line. It was so very cool to have both of my daughters there to see me at the end. I can’t say there weren’t a few tears exchanged as we embraced.

I did my best to walk off my sore legs – but a banana and a tall IPA were helpful in putting my mind somewhere else.

After a hot shower (which felt AMAZING) and some stretching and foam-rolling, we went out for lunch and I enjoyed a full pizza and a couple more beers. Like a doofus, I wore my medal out because it seemed like the thing to do. Finally, after a long day of hanging around and trying to nap, I got to hang out with Sally and just rest the legs.

What a wonderful day!

National Bat Appreciation Day

April 17 is National Bat Appreciation Day – which seems like a weird thing to write a blog post about, but we really appreciate the bats in our neighborhood. 

Our neighborhood has always had a bad problem with mosquitos. We tried every possible way of avoiding mosquito bites – sprays, repellants, citranella candles, etc, with nothing working. After a lot of research – and out of desperation – we decided to put up a bathouse on the back of our house in order to attract bats that would eat all of the mosquitoes. 

The bathouse hung for 6 years before bats moved in. The way we knew they were there was the telling collection of bat guano just below the bathouse piled on top of our telephone cable box (we obviously didn’t think through the best placement of the bathouse). 

The bats disappeared late last Fall as it got cold, but returned a couple weeks ago. So glad to have them back just before the mosquitoes start showing up.

Fasting from Social Media for Lent – what I learned

Lent was quickly approaching and I was having difficulty deciding what to “give up”. Over the past 20+ years of being Catholic, I’ve given up many things, including coffee, alcohol, desserts, and all of the many things one gives up during Lent. However, none of these seemed to speak to me as I was looking for something that would allow me to really focus on spiritual discipline.

Someone I respect had recently made the decision to leave Facebook and Twitter – and I was flabbergasted that someone could just up and leave like that without going through withdrawal or having some sort of vacuum exist. Given this reaction, I realized that maybe this was where I had given too much priority in my life – maybe a fast from social media was what I needed. In fact, with honest introspection, I spent collectively an hour or more per day on social media.

The first thing I learned was that I was nowhere near as angry and upset about things. The constant bickering that occurs among my real friends and among those I count as “friends” was really taking a toll on me that I didn’t realize until it wasn’t there. It was refreshing to not have the persistent onslaught of negativity.

Another thing I learned was that I get my news from social media. Once I turned it off, I was in the dark about everything going on in my neighborhood, city, country, and around the world. I needed to seek out other forms of getting news – such as the newspaper and the local TV station, much the same as I did before social media existed. But, this also reiterated the fact that I’d become accustomed to getting my news from various sources with potentially different views (e.g., NPR, CNN, BBC, NY Times, Washington Times, Fox News). Without everything being in a nice tidy list, it was difficult keeping caught up with everything. Oftentimes, I just let Linda tell me about all of the goings-on.

The thing I missed was keeping up with what was going on in the lives of my friends. A good friend was diagnosed with cancer and I wouldn’t have known anything about it had Linda not informed me. I realized I enjoy telling my friends “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. 

Finally, to be honest, I posted an Easter message on Facebook and Twitter upon waking on Easter morning – and then spent 45 minutes catching up on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, I can see me fasting from social media again; maybe more than just at Lent.